23 Jun. 2007

Let's Remember How This Whole Thing Began

Howard seems to have decided that a militant approach to Aboriginal issues will be a vote winner, a passion-churning big issue that could turn his electoral fortunes. So let's remember how this all began:
The Federal Government has announced a response to the report into sexual abuse of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory, including widespread bans on alcohol sales on Indigenous land for six months.

Prime Minister John Howard says the Federal Government is not happy with the NT Government's response to the issue.

He says the widespread child abuse in Territory communities, as outlined in a recent report, is a national emergency.

All Indigenous children in the Territory are to undergo a medical check.

"We will provide the resources and we will be appealing directly to the Australian Medical Association to assist," he said.

"We will bear the cost of medical examinations of all Indigenous children in the Northern Territory under the age of 16."

The Commonwealth is to link welfare to school attendance, and 50 per cent of welfare to parents of children in the affected areas will be quarantined for food and other essentials.

The Federal Government will take over the running of townships using five-year leases.

There will be a special session of Parliament if needed to amend land rights legislation and self-government legislation.

"The Commonwealth Government will take control of townships through five-year leases to ensure that property and public housing can be improved and if that involves the payment of compensation on just terms as required by the Commonwealth Constitution, then that compensation will be readily paid," he said.

"We will require intensive on-ground clean-up."

Mr Howard says the changes are a dramatic and significant Commonwealth intervention.

"We're doing this because we do not think the Territory has responded to the crisis affecting the children in the Territory," he said.

Mr Howard says he will also scrap the permit system for entry to Aboriginal land.

There will also be a ban on x-rated pornography in the affected areas, and an increased policing presence.

"It is interventionist, it does push aside the role of the Territory to some degree," he said.

"I accept that but what matters more - the constitutional niceties or the care and protection of young children?"
There's your classic Howard wedge there, and you classic straw man argument.

So was this unprecedented Federal intervention really necessary? Every decent person in Australia is delighted to see something - anything - finally being done about this disgraceful situation, but Howard's rush to blame the NT state govt seems misplaced:
One of the authors of the child sex abuse inquiry, Rex Wild QC, says... the Prime Minister's criticism of the Northern Territory Government's response time is unfair.

"They've only had the report for a fairly limited time," he said.

"To my knowledge, they've already sent the report through to the relevant departments and I understand they are working on the recommendations."
I smell a rat.